Who's that guy working on the side of the road in an orange T-shirt? It could be Padre Dam Utility Worker Mike Byerly. Mike is on the ground every day making sure that the community's water system is working by performing water service repairs, fixing main breaks and laying new installations. Most of the time, Mike can be found replacing aging valves.
"When we're out working, a lot of people automatically assume that something is wrong or that something's broken." Mike said. In fact most of what Mike does is replacing old, worn out materials to ensure that the system runs smoothly to prevent breaks.
Even during these routine replacements, scheduling is tight. Mike and the Padre Dam team do a lot of prep work before each project begins so that they can minimize the amount of time a customer's water is shut off. Another way they do this is by repairing and replacing pipes without actually digging them up. Using advanced tools and precise maneuvering, Padre Dam crews are able to cut open old pipe in the ground while laying new pipe. All this can typically be done with only one small trench at the end of the pipeline.
Once repairs are made, Mike's focus shifts to making sure that the new pipelines are safe to transport water to the families and businesses in the area. This is done through flushing, where water is run through the pipes to knock out any loose dirt or debris that may have fallen in during construction. The water then comes out a hose where water quality samples are taken.
"It is our number one priority to keep our customer's water at the highest water quality standards. We have to flush a lot of water out to make sure that nothing is in the pipe that could cause impacts to water quality." Mike explains that although it can look like water is being wasted, it's not. Flushing is a necessity in ensuring that the drinking water supply is safe for Padre Dam's customers.
When issues arise and there is a main break, Mike is on call 24/7 to stop the flow of water and repair the issue. This is especially challenging at night when dark conditions complicate digging around power and gas lines. Although emergencies do come up from time to time, Mike and the Padre Dam Operations team work hard to prevent infrastructure from breaking down.
Mike's favorite part of working at Padre Dam is his co-workers. "I love the people I work with, we're able to work really efficiently and have fun at the same time. It's great." When he's not spending time with his family at the desert, Mike's hobbies include making things - especially with reclaimed metal. He is particularly proud of a watering can rooster he made with his ten-year-old son.